Mountain toads not seen as endangered | VailDaily.com

Mountain toads not seen as endangered

Bob Berwyn

Summit Daily News photo A boreal toad survey team member cradles a mature toad in Cucumber Gulch earlier this summer. The Breckenridge wetlands are considered one of the best boreal toad habitats in Colorado.

SUMMIT COUNTY – Warts and all, boreal toads in the southern Rockies have been taken off a list that could’ve lead to endangered species designation. Summit County is home to several breeding populations of boreal toads, most of which have survived the spread of a deadly fungus that has killed off toads and other amphibians in North America and around the globe.

Boreal toads are on the state endangered species list, and Colorado Division of Wildlife officials said the federal decision wouldn’t have an immediate effect on the state’s recovery effort, which includes breeding boreal toads at an aquatic research facility and trying to re-establish populations around the state.The Cucumber Gulch wetlands in Breckenridge is considered prime habitat for boreal toads, and state biologists say the toads could be reintroduced there. A toad survey in Cucumber Gulch this summer turned up only two animals, but according to anecdotal accounts from long-time residents of the area, the gulch was once home to a thriving population.The decision by Breckenridge to protect Cucumber Gulch as a nature preserve was in part due to its potential as habitat for the rare amphibians. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service said the Rockies toads are not unique enough to be considered an endangered species. Extinction of the mountain toads would only create a small gap in the overall population. Related subspecies of boreal toads are common in parts of the Northern Rockies ranging all the way to British Columbia, the agency said.

The best available scientific evidence doesn’t show the Southern Rockies boreal toad is genetically different from other populations in the Northern Rockies, the agency said. Erin Roberts, staff biologist with the Center for Native Ecosystems, said her organization will sue the federal government over its decision to remove boreal toads from the Endangered Species Act candidate species list.”We have no other choice,” Robertson said. “This decision is completely out of line with the science.”

Taking the frogs off the list could drain federal funds from toad research, Roberts said. Without federal attention, conserving frogs could lose momentum, she added.Vail, Colorado